I am writing this diary and addressing it to young black men and women. It may be hard to understand that the whites on this site don't have to write open letters to other whites because,well, because most of the people on this site are white. I am not excluding whites I am focusing on young blacks. White folk don't have to consider what it feels like to be white unless they are in a room with all blacks. Just as straight folks don't often consider what it's like to be straight unless they go to a gay club. That is the way of things.
There is no unified experience of living black in America. There are many blacks who live far from the communities of other black folk. There are blacks in projects and those who live in gated communities. Even those communities that are predominately black are varied. Urban, rural, middle class, suburban. We live as minorities in white communities as diverse as Utah and Manhattan. The black experience in New York and Chicago is different than the experience of being black in Atlanta or Seattle. Most of us do have some common and shared experiences. Most of us have experienced being treated differently because we are black. Hell, even Oprah was denied entrance into an exclusive shop long after she was famous because they only saw a black woman. Derrick Bell told a story about having one associate try to block entry into a large law firm that bore the name of that lawyer...because that lawyer was black, the young associate wasn't, and didn't know him.He assumed that the black man was out of place. He assumed that he was also trying to break in. I hope he assumed himself out of a job. Money and education, fame and celebrity don't act as buffers against the long held and well tended gardens of injustice, apathy and racial hatred. Not yet. You are going to have to step up to the plate on this one.
All black folk do not think alike. Thank God. All white folks don't think alike and again I thank God for this. Racist think alike and that is their weakness. They are predictable. Their actions foreseeable. Do not overlook the more subtle forms of racism. They are all around you.
My experiences of having lived in every decade since the forties informs me in ways that are not common to younger black folk who arrived on this planet a couple decades back. My sons grew up in a different America than I did. This is as it should be.
We did our job.
We did our job so that black people would have the opportunity to vote. This doesn't seem like such a big deal to generations who have never known anything different. There are bodies buried, black and white that made this possible. Some of those bodies were Jews. Don't believe anyone who tells you that Jews are the enemies of blacks. They have shown that they are not. Don't believe that all whites are your enemy. They too, have shown that they are not. I learned as a a child that what you do speaks so loud I don't have to listen to what you say.
We didn't finish. There is still so much to be done. Young black men are still viewed as threats. Just because some can afford the bling doesn't mean there is economic equity. You will have to work to insure that your children have a better chance at life . You will have to raise your voices and scream out loud for a while yet. We have on paper equal justice under the laws of this country. Our high rate of incarceration speaks of another reality, one that your generation must wage war against.
Young black women when they are visible, are often depicted in terms of their sexuality. You are more than your body. You are not bitches or 'ho's or anything near that. You can do more and go further than any generation of black women before. And a man is not a plan young sistahs. Sistah's been doin' it for themselves since the beginning of time. If you want to dig for gold do it within your own souls. There are riches within you beyond imagination
Family is important. Making the big money ought not estrange you from your children. Take time when they are young to nurture them and teach them. Support them in all ways, financially, emotionally, and spiritually. Do not break their spirits. Do not allow others to break their spirits. A broken spirit is the saddest of all the conditions of man.
I find it ironic that whites never have to take responsibility for the insane actions of other whites. Our identities as black people often are considered a reflection on other blacks. Interestingly enough if we don't fit the stereotype, we are told we are 'different'. One day, I hope that this too will change as we begin to see people and not color. We're not there yet. Be wary of whites who approach you with 'you're different'. Believing you are different can lead to becoming Clarence Thomas. This must be avoided at all cost.
Am I a feminist? No. I consider myself a womanist. If you don't know the difference, read Alice Walker. In fact, read Alice Walker anyway. And W.E.B. Du Bois. Read John Hope Franklin . Read Derrick Bell and Randall Robinson. Read Amiri Baraka and James Baldwin. Read as much and as often as you can. Read. Learn. Then live from your learning.
Step up and protect this planet. This is one of the single most important things you can do. Environmental issues affect us all.
Find your voice and cry out against Darfur. You are not your brother's keeper. You are your brother.
What do I think about politics? Do I think black people should vote for Obama because he is a black man? Yes and no. Yes in that he is qualified, articulate and smart as hell. Yes in the way poor white people ought not to vote against their own self interest and for republicans. No in that the right to vote is sacred. The right to vote was won with blood,sweat and tears. Vote your conscience. I got your back on this one. No matter who you vote for.
Every vote is sacred. Every vote counts. Our ancestors were slaves. Death was their only freedom. Now, you are able to raise your voice, vote your choice and file a lawsuit on anyone stupid enough to openly discriminate against you. Just know that all discrimination is not openly so.
You may not win every battle. This too, is the way of things. The most important battle for you to win is the battle for self respect and dignity. Hold your head up high. Never hesitate to do what you know to be right. Never allow losing a battle to cause you to stop fighting the war. There are still dreams to dream and songs to sing and a world to save. Reach for the dreams. Sing the songs and change the world.
I guess it's time to pass the baton to you. Back in the day when we marched, got jailed and threatened,spit on and hit with bottles and cans, we did so with the faint hope that America might someday find a place for black people to sit at the table. Obama is sitting at the table. Many of you are sitting at the table. I cannot tell you how proud I am of this. It's your turn now. Let's see what you do with it. I believe in you.